Nov. 3, 2013— -- With two days remaining before Virginians head to the polls to pick their next governor, President Obama stumped for his fellow Democrat in the race, Terry McAuliffe, today as Republican Ken Cuccinelli crisscrossed the state in last-minute rallies.
But the gubernatorial election has been transformed by both sides into a referendum on national politics.
Speaking to a crowd of 1,600 in the Washington suburbs, the president attempted to associate Cuccinelli with the congressional GOP and the memory of the recent government shutdown.
"There aren't a lot of states that felt more of the pain than folks right here in Virginia," he said at an Arlington, Va., high school.
"Paychecks were delayed. Families were forced to go without the services that they depended on. Business owners took it on the chin when customers cut back on their own spending. And as Terry mentioned, his opponent says he's perfectly happy with it. Now he says it's in the rear view mirror.
"This isn't a game and there are very real consequences when you operate ideologically the way some of these folks do," he said.
The president did not mention Cuccinelli by name in his remarks, but attempted to paint him as tea party ideologue more interested in religious and social activism than governing.
"We will not create jobs when you focus on things like attacking Social Security," he said. "That doesn't create jobs. It doesn't create jobs when you go after scientists, you know, and you try to offer your own alternative theories of how things work and engage in litigation around stuff that isn't political. It has to do with what's true. It has to do with facts."
Obama was referring to a lawsuit Cuccinelli, as state attorney general, brought against the University of Virginia in 2010. Cuccinelli, 45, a climate change skeptic, had targeted UVA over a global warming report using antifraud laws.
Speaking before Obama, McAuliffe, 56, referred to his opponent as having "spent his entire political career driving gridlock from the political fringe," a politician who had "demonized gays" and stood against perceived women's health care rights.
"Ted Cruz, who was the Texas senator who was the architect of the government shutdown, took time off from causing the gridlock in D.C. to come to Virginia to actually campaign for Ken Cuccinelli," McAuliffe said. "And while Cuccinelli was there with Ted Cruz, he refused to speak out and tell Ted Cruz to stop the government shutdown. Stop hurting Virginia families.
"He stood with the tea party and not with Virginia families," he said.
McAuliffe and Obama each told the crowd that a Democratic governor would focus on education overhaul and bringing more high-paying jobs to the state.
Obama is the latest, and biggest, in a string of high-profile politicos to lend their voice to the gubernatorial election. McAuliffe himself has benefited immensely from Bill and Hillary Clinton's contributions in the form of campaign appearances and the use of their deep connections to fill out his staff.
Actress Kerry Washington and some members of the Virginia congressional delegation also attended today. Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Florida congresswoman, was expected to participate later in the evening while Vice President Biden is scheduled to join Monday.